Humanitarian crisis in Greece: Europe must provide protection to refugees

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German French

A humanitarian catastrophe is taking place on the Turkish-Greek border: After President Erdoğan of Turkey opened the border to Greece, thousands of refugees set out to apply for asylum in the EU. In Greece, the police used violence to prevent people from entering the country.

The Greek government declared that this policy of deterrence was required in order to defend the EU's external border. At the same time, Greece announced that it would suspend the right to asylum. For months, more than 40,000 people have been stuck in overcrowded camps on the Greek islands. The situation on the islands is no longer sustainable. Right-wing groups are threatening journalists and aid organisations, and these are not being protected by the authorities. A further escalation of the situation can only be prevented by a quick response from the EU member states. 

It is now even more necessary to do what should have been done a long time ago: the European Union has a duty to help Greece deal with the situation in every way possible. Humanity and order must now be the guiding principles of the EU. This is a European emergency, not a Greek one. If we abandon Greece now, we will contribute to further suffering, insecurity and instability.

We therefore call for the implementation of four immediate measures:

1. The Member States should take an allocation of refugees from Greece and the Aegean Islands. If some EU countries leads in Europe, it will be easier for other EU countries to follow. The goal must continue to be a fair and rapid distribution of refugees across the EU.

2. European Governments can no longer block the family reunification of refugees currently in Greece with their relatives in EU member states. Many refugees in Greece, including a lot of unaccompanied children, have a legal right to family reunification under the Dublin Regulation. The Member States are responsible for their asylum procedure. Unaccompanied children must be brought to their relatives in the respective Member States.

3. The right to asylum is a human right. People who seek protection within the EU must not be deported without an individual review of their asylum application having taken place. The EU Member States must support Greece so that the refugees can be registered at the EU's external border and then be granted access to a fair asylum procedure. Only a fair asylum procedure can assess who is in need of protection and who is not.

4. Police violence against refugees must stop. Tear gas and water cannons only aggravate the problem and do not solve anything. Europe must not deal with those seeking protection in this way. Journalists, lawyers and NGOs must be protected and be able to carry out their important work without hindrance. The Member States must work with the EU to ensure that fundamental rights are upheld at all levels. The local authorities must enforce the law rather than tolerating the violent mobs on the Greek islands.

President Erdoğan of Turkey is using the suffering of refugees to exert pressure on the EU. A common European response is needed. What is important is that we provide humanitarian aid and defend the rule of law in Europe. Let us therefore address this urgent petition to the EU Member States and the European Council with as many signatures as possible: Europe must offer refugees protection!

With best European wishes,

Tineke Strik MEP, Sven Giegold MEP, Erik Marquardt MEP, Clara Anne Bünger and Ansgar Gilster